On-Line Bible Lessons

Deuteronomy - Chapter 24, Lesson 1

Sorry, but time prohibits correcting the grammar in these lessons, Pastor Ovid Need


Now we come to another much discussed subject, to say the least. Nearly every teacher we talk to will have a different idea on this and very few will be the same. Moses puts great em­phasis upon family law, as we have seen many times. We see that society is built around our responsibility toward God, then it is built around our responsibilities in the family. Divorce is covered here in the OT, as well as the NT. First, let's consider the OT teaching on divorce. Mar­riage in scripture is a voluntary union of a man and a woman in wedlock. Marriages were very commonly arranged yet mutual consent was obtained. Divorce, or the dissolution of a marriage, did not require mutual consent. There are four permissible types of divorce mentioned which carry with them the right to remarry for the innocent party.

1. By far the most common type of divorce was what, Deut. 13:6-9; Matt. 22:24-25?

2. Another type, Ex. 21:1; Deut. 21:14; I Cor. 7:3? Really, Ex. 21:10 and 11 is the clearest presen­tation of this principle. (not providing for her what was required by law)


3. A third type of divorce. What kind of marriages were prohibited, Deut. 7:1-3; Ex. 34:12-16; II Cor. 6:14? (Marriage between saved and unsaved.)


a. Those who were involved in this type of marriage were required to do what, Neh. 13:23-27; Ezra 10:2


b. We also have marriage between who forbidden in Lev. 18:6-21? (near kin)________

4. Then we have the fourth type of divorce. What is it, Deut. 24:1-4?
(No pleasure in her) ________________________________________

Let's look a little at these. The first type of divorce is very revealing, as well as applicable, for our day. If one marriage partner is dead, the other is free. "The Institutes of Biblical Law" gives the following list on pg. 402. These sins required the death penalty against the man, thereby leaving the woman free to remarry:

1. Adultery: Deut. 22:20-25; Lev. 20:10.
2. Rape: Deut. 22:25,26
3. Incest: Lev. 20:11, 12, 14, 17.
4. Homosexuality or sodomy: Lev. 20:13 (18:22).
5. Bestiality: Ex. 22:19; Lev. 18:23; 20:15; Num. 35:16-21.
6. Premeditated murder: Ex. 21: 12, 14; Num. 35:16-21.
7. Smiting father or mother: Ex. 21:15.
8. Death of a woman from miscarriage due to assault and battery: Ex. 21:22,23.
9. Sacrificing children to Molech: Lev. 20:2-5.
10. Cursing father and mother: Ex. 21:17; Lev. 20:9.
11. Kidnaping: Ex. 21:16.
12. Being a wizard: Lev. 20:27 (cf. Deut. 13:1-11).
13. Being a false prophet or dreamer: Deut. 13:1-5; 18:20.
14. Apostasy: Deut. 13:6-16; 17:2-5.
15. Sacrificing to other gods: Ex. 22:20.
16. Refusing to follow the decision of judges: Deut. 17:12 (we have covered this judge previously).
17. Blasphemy: Lev. 24:16.
18. Sabbath desecration: Num. 15:32-36 (This appears not as a part of the legislation, but from a special instance in the wilderness).
19. Transgressing the covenant: Deut. 17:2-5.
On the other hand, these sins required the death penalty against the woman, thereby leaving the man free to remarry.

1. Unchastity before marriage: Deut. 22:21.
2. Adultery after marriage: Deut. 22:22-23; Lev. 20:10.
3. Prostitution by a priest's daughter: Lev. 21:9.
4. Bestiality: Lev. 20:16; 18:23; Ex. 22:19; Deut. 27:21.
5. Being a wizard or a witch (sorceress): Ex. 22:18; Lev. 20:27.
6. Transgressing the covenant: Deut. 17:2-5.
7. Incest: Lev. 20:11, 12 , 14, 17.

Of course, some sins from the man's list would apply to women, also, such as murder, but, all in all, the list for the man is quite a bit longer. This shows that the man not only has the greater authority, but he also has the greater responsibility before God, Lk. 12:48. Men love to assert their authority, yet, few want to fulfill their responsibility. A person "under" them would have little problem submitting to the authority of a man who fulfills his responsibility. Divorce by death left the innocent partner free of the guilty person and free to remarry.

This presents us with a very interesting principle established here. First and foremost, all of man's activities are in relationship to God's law. Therefore, any and all divorce is in relationship to God's law and not to man's. It is in relationship to God's standard of holiness, not to man's, I Pet. 1:13-17. Secondly, Deut. 24:1-4, this uncleanness in the wife is assuming the hus­band loves the law of God and is seeking to obey it. The woman here who finds no favor in her husband's eyes is stubbornly going her own way in violation to her husband's stand in God's holi­ness, therefore, her rebellion is against God and Him alone. This rebellion against God's law would count the woman dead before God as a witch, leaving the husband free to divorce her, I Sam. 15:23.

Divorce is a part of the sinful order of man (Matt. 10:5), just as war is. Divorce is in relationship to God's standard of holiness, just as godly war can only be waged in relationship to God's standard of holiness. Deut. 24:1-4 does not give the sinful man the right to do as he pleases, especially with his wife. It is not an excuse to justify ungodly desires. It is the relationship to God's holy desires which must be protected.

Now, let's pursue this principle of the dead partner into the NT. As we have pointed out several times, the church is not permitted to carry out the death penalty. Yet, the church is to treat that person who continues on in these sins which are worthy of death as a dead person, I Cor. 5. Their hardness in their sin costs them their relationship with the living. We will look more at our Lord's words on this later.

This raises an interesting question. Consider this. The marriage partner who continues in these sins, does this make them "dead" in the eyes of God's word? Just because civil government doesn't put them to death, does this make them any less guilty and no longer under God's death penalty? To follow this through, if the guilty party is hardened in their sin, refuse to turn from it, then are they scripturally dead, thereby giving the innocent party who is trying to live holy the right before God, just cause for divorce and remarriage? It would seem this principle would hold true. We will see more of this in a later lesson.

Following these OT types of divorce through the type from Q. 2, seems to be reaffirmed by Paul as a reason for separation and divorce, I Cor. 7:3-5. The third type of divorce is also covered by Paul. He is very strong on this point in II Cor. 6:14-18. We will attempt to give some clarity on this as we go along.

5. The fourth type of divorce. If the husband found uncleanness in his wife, what could he do, Deut. 24:1-4? ___________________________________________

a. Uncleanness in terms of what? The husband's standards or God's standards?

Isa. 50 covers this principle a little. A much more in-depth coverage is found in Jer. 3 and this we need to look at. The Lord God quotes Deut. 24:1-4 here in Jer. 3:1-8. (Deut 24 also prohibits a divorced woman who has married another man from going back to her first husband. It is an abomination before God and causes the land to sin).

6. What does the Lord point out that His people did, Jer. 3:1?

7. As we go through this, notice v. 3, the "whore's forehead". Here they are confronted with sin and refuse to turn from it. He is speaking to Judah. He tells Judah to look at what happened to her sister, Israel. When Israel turned from God and played the harlot as she served other gods, God sent His messengers to her to return to her Husband, but she would not. Israel was con­sidered the wife of Jehovah God. As a result of her refusal to turn from her service to other gods and return to her Husband, what did her Husband do, v. 8?

8. She committed adultery with the stones and stocks and defiled the land. Judah saw her do this. Judah saw Jehovah God divorce her as the heathen invaded the land and took Israel away. God sent warnings to the sister, Judah, to return, yet, what did Judah do, v. 10?

a. How do God's people commit adultery with the heathens gods, Jer. 44:10?

Ezek. 16 and 23 gives an excellent illustration of what Judah did to cause her Husband to do what He did. Judah, the adulterous nation, sought to do her own thing with whoever happened to be close at hand. She did not do it openly as did her sister, Israel, rather, she did it in secret. On the outside she was all smiles and seemed to be a faithful wife, yet, down deep inside she was in total rebellion against her Husband, Jehovah God. She had no interest in the covenant law of her Husband, and the result was that her Husband gave her a bill of divorcement and gave her to her many lovers. In fact, He did this with both Judah and Israel. They refused to meet His holy standards so He divorced them and He used Deut. 24:1-4 as His established principle to do so. It is worth noting that if Jehovah God divorced His wife for her sin, then the NT wife of our Lord is not immune to chastising and purifying, Heb. 10:26-31; 12:29.

This presents a principle here which we need to be aware of. THE LAW NOT ONLY PERMITTED BUT ASSUMED THAT DIVORCE WAS A MEANS OF DEALING WITH SIN. The woman lost the protection and provision of her husband and was given to the vicious world around her.

Keep in mind, this is not "one way". The list has two sides to it and the man's list is much larger than the woman's. The woman who must separate from her husband because of his hardness in sin has the Lord as her Husband as she seeks to obey God.

In the above, we see that the "uncleanness" of Deut. 24:1 is not restricted to adultery, but it refers to hardness in sin as compared to God's law and a refusal to turn from that sin. Also in­cluded is a tremendous amount of patience upon the innocent party's part before action is taken. God the Father is our example of patience.